Kingsport, Tenn. – At one point, the No. 7 seed Buffaloes of Milligan College (Tenn.) took a commanding 5-0 lead, but a combination of four pitchers through the final five innings by the No. 2 seed Bryan College Lions silenced Milligan and provided Bryan with an opportunity to comeback and that's exactly what they did on Wednesday afternoon.
The Buffs were off to a fast start, registering 11 hits through four innings of work that produced all five of their runs for the contest. The Lions responded with two runs in the bottom of the fourth to cut the deficit to three, but the real dagger came in the bottom of the seventh frame when Bryan rallied for three runs to even the score at 5-5. The Lions applied pressure in the eighth inning by posting one run, which was enough to outlast the Buffs 6-5 for the come-from-behind win.
It was the end for Milligan as they earned their second loss of the tournament that concluded their 2016 season, but the win for Bryan set up a rematch between the Lions and No. 3 seed Point University (Ga.) for Wednesday night at 6:30pm.
After being knocked around 8-0 on the opening day of the tournament by the Lions, the Buffs had an answer early in the elimination game as they jumped out in front 1-0 after scoring on an RBI single to right-center in the top of the first.
As Bryan was unable to counter, Milligan took advantage and added onto their lead in the top of the second when the Buff's Hunter Suggs singled thru the hole at second and stole second before advancing home on a single to center by Andrew Copas.
Following a fly out to leadoff in the top of the fourth was a single, triple, double, single, and another single that broke out the Buffaloes with three additional runs to grab a comfortable 5-0 lead.
Despite a significant momentum swing in Milligan's direction, Bryan maintained composure and capitalized in the bottom of the frame for their first runs of the game. Crandon Wallace (SR/Nassau, Bahamas) led off the Lions with a perfectly executed bunt in which he reached base with the help of a wild throw. A double driven down the left field line by Justin Morhardt (SO/Winsted, Conn.) gave Wallace enough time to cut the Buff's lead to four, 5-1. Morhardt was given the chance to advance to scoring position at third after a groundout by Cody Rhinehart (SR/Ooltewah, Tenn.). Bryan chipped in another run when Andrew Urbistondo (SR/Stockton, Calif.) hit into a fielder's choice that plated Morhardt, bringing the score to 5-2.
The show was far from over for the Lions as Urbistondo drew a walk and a double by Astudillo put runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the seventh. Brookes Jones (JR/Franklin,Tenn.) followed with a groundout to first, which allowed Urbistondo to score and Astudillo to slide over to third. Evan Speicher (SR/Chattanooga, Tenn.) picked up a free base after standing and taking a hit from a pitch, but he quickly shook it off and advanced to second on a stolen bag. Bryan slugger, Preston King (SR/Kingston, Tenn.), was clutch with a crucial single up the middle that plated both Astudillo and Speicher, which stunned the Buffaloes as their lead was erased and the score was leveled at 5's.
The poise that Milligan showed earlier in the outing dwindled as a spark in the bottom of the eighth by the Lions offered the Buffaloes a glimpse at their final game of the season. With two outs, Astudillo initiated the boost with a single thru the hole at shortstop. A single by Jones put runners on the corners for Bryan, before Speicher brought in Astudillo for the winning run with a single thru the hole at second.
Milligan managed to put two runners on in their last at-bat in the top of the ninth, but standout pitcher, LJ Rowden (SR/Soddy Daisy, Tenn.), entered for Bryan and struck out a batter for the final out to seal a 6-5 comeback victory.
Hunter Tipton (SR/Taylorsville, Ky.) started at the mound for the Lions and struggled as he lasted 3.1 innings and had eight hits, four runs, two walks, and two strikeouts to show for it. Chad Burrows (JR/Nassau, Bahamas) entered as a reliever for 3.1 innings of work and surrendered seven hits but only allowed one run in the process. The third pitcher to receive time was Zane Glass (SO/Murfreesboro, Tenn.) who had a short stint of .1 inning and held a clean slate. Brandon Marklund (SO/North Vancouver, Canada) followed with 1.2 innings and gave up a lone hit and walked one to rid Milligan of any chance at late runs. Rowden claimed the final out by tossing a strikeout to close the game.
Morhardt, Astudillo, and Jones each turned in a multi-hit game as Morhardt and Astudillo had one double apiece for the Lions only extra-base hits. Astudillo also aided as the leader in runs scored with two. King recorded a team-high two RBIs after hitting 1-for-5. Speicher finished 1-for-4 with one RBI and one run scored, and Urbistondo went hitless but notched one RBI and one run scored.
Bryan improved their overall record to 38-17 as Milligan ended their season with an overall mark of 22-31.
*An article will follow the conclusion of the Bryan and Point game.
AAC Tournament Notes:
Wednesday, May 11
Game 9 - No. 2 Bryan (38-17) def. No. 7 Milligan (22-31), 6-5 (Milligan eliminated)
Game 10 - No. 1 Tennessee Wesleyan (42-12) def. No. 8 Bluefield (28-30), 10-3 (Bluefield eliminated)
Game 11 - No. 3 Point (29-27) vs. No. 2 Bryan (38-17), 6:30 p.m.
Game 12 - No. 4 Union (29-25) vs. No. 1 Tennessee Wesleyan (42-12), 9:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 12
To be determined following Wednesday's games.
If two teams remain, the championship game will be at 2 p.m.
If three teams remain, the 'if necessary' game will be at 11 a.m. and championship game at 3 p.m.
If four teams remain, the 'if necessary' games will be at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. with the championship game at 6 p.m.
To watch all of the games live, visit the AAC Digital Network. (Cost: $7.99/game or $19.99/tournament)
Follow along live via live stats and keep up with tournament statistics on the DakStats Page.
For all the information on the tournament, visit the AAC Tournament Page.